Do opposites really attract?
You would think so with this unlikely pairing of 78-year-old Doug Kershaw, the Ragin’ Cajun, and forty-something acknowledged accordion virtuoso Steve Riley.
Yet, Kershaw—who built his country music career over six decades ago with defining songs “Louisiana Man” and “Diggy Liggy Lo”—never forsook his Cajun roots but leveraged them as part of his artistic identity.
Kershaw has recorded trad Cajun before but here with Riley their rootsy sound recalls Cajun music of the late ’20s, largely based on the vintage instruments played. Kershaw brought out his woodsy 250-year-old fiddles; Riley alternated between Kershaw’s Monarch accordion, a newer but older-sounding chromatic model and a Sterling accordion that was indirectly from Amade Breaux, who played it on the first recording of “Jolie Blonde” in 1928. Since the older accordions have parallel thick brass reeds, the end result is a brassier tone and, simultaneously, more bass.
Several tracks are familiar dancehall classics such as “Petite ou la Grosse” and “Jolie Blonde,” the latter of which was played on Breaux’s 1920 accordion. Kershaw usually sings lead with a showman’s flamboyant flair while Riley contributes the high harmony part. On instrumentals “Lake Arthur Stomp” and “Crowley Two-Step,” the two get ragin’ and bore full speed ahead.
Kershaw reprises a few of his classics like “Louisiana Man” and “Feed It to the Fish” in this vintage format, which is enjoyable in this context as long as it’s not evaluated with a purist’s mindset. If opposites do attract, they also complement nicely as they do here on one of the more unusual Cajun recordings ever made.